Tuesday, January 31, 2006

 

Ethics and philospohy

So what do you prescribe to? Learn and comment....

Ethical egoism?

Bentham and Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism?

Ayn Rand's Objectivism?


Søren Aabye Kierkegaard's Existentialism?

Or the all encompassing Individualism or
Altruism?

What about egalitarianism?

Or John Rawl's Theory of Justice?

Why do you believe what you do? Does your moral philosophy conflict with our current political or economic systems? Are we selling Utopias or real world ideology?

 

The Therapeutic State

Thomas Szasz is a very interesting person. He has written many books, including the "Myth of Mental Illness" and "Fatal Freedom: The Ethics and Politics of Suicide" and "The Therapeutic State".

What do you think about the War on Drugs? Involuntary Therapy? The alliance between the State and psychiatry (along with other medical professions)? The role of the State as the pill-pusher? The monopoly on "allowing" the sale of drugs?

Here is an interview and background info on Szasz?

 

Social Justice and Capitalism?

Can Social Justice be achieved under Capitalism?

Can Equality be achieved under any political or economic structure? Equality of opportunity? Equality of outcome? To what point? At what cost?

What is justice, that gives particular individuals greater rights that others? Can there only be justice under the law (an equality of inequality)? Can egalitarianism only exist under the State's force?

Wikipedia:
Social justice is also used to refer to the overall fairness of a society in its divisions and distributions of rewards and burdens and, as such, the phrase has been adopted by political parties with a redistributive agenda.

In this sense, social justice can only be achieved through redistribution and a centralized state. Is there a way to achieve this without a State (other than everyone being equaly poor)?

Monday, January 30, 2006

 

Questioning the Morality of Capitalism

I have invited QÖTSÁISAW and a few other folks to comment and post this week on their opinions on capitalism, economics, market structures, politics, and whatever else comes up. So welcome and please comment.

 

The Virtue of Capitalism

Capitalism is a very important economic system. It is questionable if we live in anything more than a "mixed" or socialist world, since the definition implies free markets, private ownership, and individualism.

Capitalism Magazine's capitalism.org defines capitalism as:

a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. Under capitalism the state is separated from economics (production and trade), just like the state is separated from religion. Capitalism is the system of of laissez faire. It is the system of political freedom.

I think most individuals have issues with Capitalism for one of two reasons:

1. The believe private ownership of production is coercive. There are many out there that believe they are "wage slaves" to corporations. How is voluntary action, like accepting employment, coercion?

2. They believe in a State mandated social justice system. They lack faith in private or free markets, and therefore have faith that a centralized agenda of theft and distribution can achieve justice. Although they lack proof, some might say we lack proof for our faith in a free market. How can liberty and equality come about through coercion?

What is the Virtue of Capitalism? Why is it better than other economic systems? Has true capitalism or the free market ever existed for more than a very short period of time?

 

Gandhi?

I was just visiting Wikipedia again when I got sidetracked reading about something that happened on January 30th of 1948: the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. It was on the "Selected Anniversaries" section of Wikipedia's homepage. I haven't read much about Gandhi, which irritated me, so I kept reading and found a quote that sounded appealing:

"There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for."

And then I found another that was not so appealing (to Britain about the Nazis):

"I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions.... you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them."

At which point it occured to me that the two quotes are perfectly consistent. How can one seem so right and the other seem so wrong? I suppose it just means I am prepared to kill for some causes, like keeping Nazis from killing my family. Anybody have any deep insights into, or critiques of, Gandhi's tenet of nonviolence?

Friday, January 27, 2006

 

D for Deflation

What's wrong with deflation?

We all know inflation is bad and combine that with most people's lack of understanding on the subject (and who to blame). But what about deflation? It seems like it is something that wouldn't be all that bad. I know there are issues for lenders and borrowers, businesses and potentially employees, but is it worse than inflation?

 

Person of the Day

With a new book in the works, the self-proclaimed "former next president of the United States" is today's choice for person of the Day: Albert Arnold Gore Jr.

Whether it is his exemplary mind or his political advocacy, you gotta love Al Gore.

The inventor of the internet, was also the first person to appear on C-SPAN, on March 19, 1979, making a speech in the House chambers.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

 

Question of the Day

Upon reading more Rothbard (Still on "For a New Liberty"), I can across this question he poses to non-libertarians:

How can you define taxation in a way which makes it different from robbery?

Joseph Schumpeter:
...the state has been living on a revenue which was being produced in the private sphere for private purposes and had to be deflected from these purposes by political force. The theory which construes taxes on the analogy of club dues or of the purchase of the services of, say, a doctor only proves how far removed this part of the social sciences is from scientific habits of mind (Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy).

Lysander Spooner:
It is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other...
But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, say to a man: "Your money, or your life." And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.
The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.
The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a "protector," and that he takes men's money against their will, merely enable him to "protect" those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate him peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Futhermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful "sovereign," on account of the "protection" he affords you. He does not keep "protecting" you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave
(No Treason No. VI: The Constitution of No Authority).

Rothbard says that taxation and robbery are synonymous. What do you think?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

 

Fun with Feminists

Here is Mike Adam's take on Feminists

 

Jeffrey Sachs as the Underpants Gnome

Here is Division of Labour's take on Jeffrey Sachs as the Underpants Gnome.

Thanks A Constrained Vision.

 

Free Speech

Today's Opinion Journal article titled Shut Up, They Explained continues the coverage on free speech.

 

Topic of the Morning

Freedom of the Press

This right was guaranteed to all Americans by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Upon reading Murray Rothbard's For a New Liberty, I can across this passage (p.44):

"...If the government owns all the newsprint, it then necessarily has the right and the power to allocate that newsprint, and someone's "right to a free press" becomes a mockery if the government decides not to allocate nesprint in his direction. And since the government must allocate scarce newsprint in some way, the right to a free press of, say minorities or "subversive" antisocialists will get short shrift indeed. The same is true for the "right to free speech" if the government owns all the assembly halls, and therefore allocates those halls as it sees fit..."

He goes on to talk about freedom of religion and government ownership of buildings. The key of Rothbard's comments is private property. Anything that is owned by the government must be allocated in someway and some people are left out of the equation. Is there really freedom of expression, speech, press if the government can allocate these scarce resources as it sees fit? Does this differ from the ownership of the airwaves for public radio (FM & AM)? What about public television, PBS, NPR?

Does partial ownership or ownership of particular mediums of access to this media infringe on our first amendment rights, or is it just full ownership of all the resources?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

 

Does more "accountability" lead to statism?

I was thinking about this lately:

Has the continued cry for performance measures and accountability for any government spending lead to bigger government?
Has increased accountability measures driven government to increase size?

Does a "responsible" government naturally move towards statism?
Is this the unintended consequence of a 'limited' government?

 

Rothbard and the Free Market

For any out there that don't really understand what we mean by "The Free Market" or the market process please take a look at Murray Rothbard's article, reprinted here as today's Mises Daily Article.

Voluntary action, mutually beneficial gains from trade, and spontaneous order.

 

More on the Canadians

Travis has more on the Canadians here.

 

My Take on the Minimum Wage

Plases comment on my take on the Minimum Wage.
(I know it is shameless self promotion, them again, isn't that the point of having a blog)

 

Canadians Go Conservative

It looks like the Canadian Conservatives won a victory.

Here's a link for the Conservative Party of Canada.

It looks like our neighbors to the north have done a good job in voting for a Conservative Party. Now, let's see what we can do about getting a Libertarian Party of Canada up and going.

 

Person of the Day

H.L. Menken

He was a defender of rights and liberty. He was overly critical of just about everyone and everything. He was a journalist, satirist, and a social critic. Read more about him here.

Some of my favority quotes by Menken:

"Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance."

"The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all, it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality."

Find your favorites in the list of Menken quotations.

Monday, January 23, 2006

 

Marxian unemployment (oh dear)

First of all, Wikipedia is awesome--their links can keep me busy for hours. One link from the "minimum wage" page took me to "Marxian unemployment", which has this to say:

"...some unemployment — the reserve army of the unemployed — is normally needed in order to maintain work discipline in jobs, keep wages down, and protect business profitability. If profitability suffers a sustained depression, capitalists can and will punish people by imposing a recession via their control over investment decisions (a capital strike)."

Do they mean capitalists intentionally make bad investments (not profitable ones) in order to cause an economy-wide recession that will keep wages down, just to cause low wages and pay less? Are you kidding me? That seems to break a host of simple rules, one of which is Occam's Razor. Did the Marxians ever consider that the "sustained depression" of profitability caused the recession, with no malice towards workers and especially no conscious attempt by "capitalists" to cause a recession?

Plus they would need to show that recessions help profitability, which is in the ballpark of absurd. In general, I'm not sure how I feel about the Marxian approach, besides simply amazed that people still buy into it.

 

Just look at the graph

This chart is not arbitrary and it's not a product of useless theory.

It says "if you have a minimum wage above the equilibrium wage, you will have a labor surplus." That means unemployment.

If you can find data that say otherwise, then that is still very interesting, but something else happened. Odds are good you aren't talking about a minimum wage that is above equilibrium if there is no unemployment as a consequence.

 

Some fun with Hillary

Follow this link and check out the SNL spoof of Nagin, Clinton, and Jesse Jackson.

Also check out a reply to Hillary's Plantation Pandering.

 

More on the Minimum

For a more economic take on the use of the minimum wage, check Karen Palasek's Free Market Minute.

 

Subject of the Day

Minimum Wage

This topic has been in the news a lot recently. It has been discussed on Governing's blog and has been approched by our very own State Treasurer Richard Moore at his new blog in attempts to "encourage" the NC General Assembly to raise the minimum wage by one dollar here in North Carolina.

Friday, January 20, 2006

 

Milton Friedman's take

While looking for a different quote, I may have found a better one anyway:
The historical reason we have a post office monopoly is because the Pony Express did such a good job of carrying the mail across the continent that, when the government introduced transcontinental service, it couldn't compete effectively and lost money.... I conjecture that if entry into the mail-carrying business were open to all, there would be a large number of firms entering it and this archaic industry would become revolutionized in short order.
I agree. We would be much better off. Except I don't think we would see the immediate savings, since our taxes probably would not fall by the full amount of the subsidy to the USPS. What is that figure anyway?

 

Invite

If there is anyone out there who would like to comment or contribute on a regular basis, just send me an email.

 

Subject of the Day

The United State Postal Service

With the increase of the postage rate to 39 cents, it is time once again to acknowledge this governmental monopoly and ask if we can do better.

In an attempt to 'ease the pain' of these postage increases, it has been suggested that we use what is called forever stamps. More on these can be found here, here, and here (p26).

While the forever stamps won't solve the problem of inefficiency ("In effect, those who mail letters to a near location are subsidizing those who are mailing letters to distant locations") and monopoly control, they could ease the constant transitions and changes in postal rates.

The best aid in improving the U.S. Postal Service is competition (if not out-right sale of the beast). There were some very good attempts at just improving service by the The American Letter Mail Company and Wells Fargo before competition was banned.

A good book on the subject is titled "Uncle Sam the Monopoly Man" by William Wooldridge.

Don't forget to Sign the petition!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

 

Re: Sex, Drugs, and Rock n' Roll

Here is a Becker and Murphy Approach, titled The Economic Theory of Illegal Goods: The Case of Drugs.

 

Re: Wow

Check out this link. It is a continuation for Travis and his search for truth.

 

Sex, Drugs, and Rock n' Roll

Check out this info on America's illegal markets. Gotta love them.

Here's some more on the subjects of Alchohol, Tobacco, and Drugs from Dr. Frank Chaloupka and here's one of his papers titled "The Demand for Illicit Drugs".

Here's some information on Black Markets
and Prostitution.

 

Happy Birthday Person of the Day

Today is the 198th anniversary of Lysander Spooner's birth.

You can find out all about him here and here.

His most famous works are Vices are Not Crimes, Natural Law, and No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority.

He is most famous for his anarchist ideology, his formation of a competing Post Office, and his work as an Abolitionist. He also posed, that the Civil War was not exactly altruistic and that the South was well within its rights to secede.

He was a champion of choice, personal property, natural law, liberty and freedom, and was a staunch proponent of unanimous consent and voluntary action.

 

WOW

I just think it's amazing how many websites I can find that are devoted to arming the layman with anti-libertarian techniques and arguments. In fact, there's a whole index of libertarian subjects and how to dismantle or refute each one. For example, they have this definition of Austrian Economics and a host of essays about why it's no good:
Austrian Economics is a fringe academic view which is greatly preferred by many libertarians on ideological grounds. However, it has even less predictive power than mainstream economics, and has many commonsense problems.
Do they mean ideological grounds as in "interpersonal utility comparisons are impossible" and "the assumptions of the perfect competition model are inaccurate" or ideological grounds as in value judgments? This website will keep me busy for at least a month.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

 

Critics 2

In the section titled "Economic Criticism" under "Criticism of Libertarianism," the goal is presumably to poke holes in libertarian economics. Instead, what that section turns out to be is a discussion of the relationship between free markets and political liberty. And as I could have guessed, the one concrete argument that is posed against "libertarian economics," the case of Chile in the late 20th Century, turns out to support the idea that free markets bring political liberty.

The section gives no evidence of flaws in "libertarian economics," but criticizes a few "Chicago school" economists for drawing up a fascist constitution. Since when was economics a complete guide for writing constitutions? Can you find anywhere in "free-market" or "libertarian economics" anything remotely approving of stifling free speech?

For a more interesting critique, read what Seth Finkelstein(?) thinks about libertarians. The best part is his assertion that it is perfectly consistent with libertarian philosophy to allow businesses to discriminate against customers by race, gender, age, whatever. Is it? (I realize this might open a can of worms, but I think it's worth it.)

 

Critics of Libertarianism

I think it's instructive to address the issues brought up by the critics of libertarianism. Their criticism can actually help libertarians form a more complete philosophy by showing us what the problems are while we stitch up the holes or correct any misconceptions. Have fun with the link I included.

 

Right to Life

Do we have the right to live? How bout the right the die?
I am of the opinion that we do. That is, that there are inherent natural rights of every person that establish the natural laws of the individual to their person and property.

Bastiat said:
"Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place".

Any individual can do what he likes with his person and property to any conceivable end, so long as it does not infringe on the person and property of another.

The difficult question is where do these 'choices' begin and end, especially involving the lives and rights of others. Of course I am referring to abortion and assisted suicide and the notion of an individual’s right of person and coercive power over that individual or another. Who has the rights? What is coercive interference with those rights?

This can also be taken away from less extreme cases, like when the State has coercive power via forced service from a Draft. Do you still have natural rights when you are now government property in the military? At what point in time is life, liberty, and property reinstated, once it is taken away?

 

Subject of the Day

Anarcho-capitalism.

Additionally, below are some of its cousins. Some are real close to the family and some are distant relatives.

Libertarianism, Paleolibertarianism, Minarchism, Neolibertarianism, Left-libertarianism, and the Laissez-faire folks.

Also we have the folks from the Chicago school and the Austrian school, who overlap a bit in their ideology and the ideology of their followers.

Some famous libertarians can be found here. Similarly related to much of the current libertarian ideology are what has been termed the South Park Republicans.

Lastly we have the Individualist Anarchists and the Communitarian Anarchists broken up into a couple of branches, with the most pronounced being the Mutualists and the Anarchist Communists or Libertarian Socialists.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

 

God, War, and Black People

Here is some interesting commentary on the destruction of the city of New Orleans, the war in Iraq, and black people by Mayor Ray Nagin.

The Washington Post explains why God Is Mad At America.

What a nice tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday.

 

Re3: Stupid Americans

Here's some commentary on Stossel's special and the government monopoly on education.

Sign up for the petition to end the monopoly of public education launched by Americans for Better Public Education (ABPE)

Here's some more comments by Terry Stoops and George Leef.

 

Re2: Stupid Americans

Perhaps it is not the monopoly or even extensive subsidization, since in the earlier years of the U.S. public school monopoly, we did lead much of the world in academic standards. Perhaps in the SR, this governmental policy does not have such damaging effects. But in the LR, which Keynes died and left us with, perhaps this monopoly stimulates artificial demands for education, excessive waste, lowered quality, and all the problems of our current system.

John Stossel (ABC’s 20/20 last Friday), does point out that the Belgian schools where there was choice did better than either the French or Swiss schools that are substantially socialized .

Perhaps simple school choice does lead to better performance, even under a government monopoly. There seems to be evidence that, when government groups have even the threat of competition, they perform much better.

Here is some information on the potential for school choice.

 

Person of the Day

Arthur Cecil Pigou.

If he were still around he could help us take care of our smoking problems. In fact, he would be able to help us with all of society's undesirable activities and associated "side-effects".

Let's internalize those externalities.

Monday, January 16, 2006

 

Guns for all, and ammo for none

Well...
There is a line. It has been drawn for us over the years. This line defines how and when we are allowed to defend ourselves against external forces infringing on our person or property.

Obviously, the government (an organization of legalized coercion) defines its right to plunder or murder as it sees fit, with our actions of self-defense determined illegal.

Amendment Two should have, over the years, been more broadly interpreted by the courts, allowing for any defense of one's self as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. What it shouldn't have done, and has done, was to define particular "weapons of choice" as either legal or illegal, limiting both ability and choice in defense.

The real advantage the second amendment was supposed to grant us, was in the ability to defend ourselves, protect against excessive governmental coercion and injustice and and act voluntarally in national defense (that is defense against nations - not defense of a nation) rather than through draft service. It seems to me that this Amendment was supposed to act like a fourth branch of the government, as an additional check and balance to the beauracrat's budget-maximizing agenda, the Court's monopoly on law, and the Executive branch's push for power.

That's my take.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

 

Amendment 2 question...

What is the limit on the right to bear arms? I realize I have the right to own a firearm, but do I have the right to own... a machine gun, a tank, a bomb? In other words, where is the line that must lie somewhere between a small rifle and a nuclear bomb, if we can agree that there is a line?

 

Re: Stupid Americans

I'm still stumped on why Americans are behind the rest of the developed world in education. If it were attributable only to the government near-monopoly on education, then why is Europe doing better than us? Aren't they socialized when it comes to education?

But then, our kids still grow up to run businesses well and keep America at the top of any rank of overall living standards. So what gives?

An interesting thing to think about is the optimal amount of education. "What is that amount?", you may ask. Well if you ask me, it's the amount that results when everyone acts based on their perceived benefit and cost, and nothing gets in the way of those perceptions. The current system definitely gets in the way of, if not completely shatters, those perceptions.

A counterintuitive result from this definition is that some countries may have "too much" education since they mandate it or subsidize it so heavily.

Friday, January 13, 2006

 

Helping the Monopoly

Here is a potentially useful action by the Houston school board to pay for performance. We will have to wait and see how long this will last before the teacher's unions jump on it. It would be nice to see if anyone is able to follow their lead.

 

Stupid Americans…

Tonight is John Stossel's 20/20 special report: “Stupid in America: How we cheat our kids”.

The short video preview for the show tonight reminds me of the engraving on the Statue of Liberty by Emma Lazarus:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."


The gentleman in this video promotion was much like how Emma Lazarus described America. He challenged all the notions of demographic inequalities (income, location, race, sex) and said that he could teach any child and get better results.

He is only capable of attaining what he has done and will continue to do so because in private education (a semi-free market) teachers, students, and administrators have the proper incentive structure for measurable advancements in educational attainment.

In a free market for education, schools would want to help children learn and lower costs simultaneously. They would be responsible to the children and parents and would have to measure up or the parent would take their money elsewhere. Under the current system, you’re stuck (by location, lack of choice, and child attendance).

For a better understanding of why things are the way they are, it is essential to look at the incentive structures. Here’s a brief look at the current public education model:

1.Since it is “free to me”, parents don’t have an incentive to check and see if they are getting their money’s worth. Your return on investment is less tangible.

2.Teachers and Administrators do not serve their “customers” and many times don’t even pretend to. There is no merit-based reward system for proficiency or excellence, no motivation for growth or accountability. They are not accountable for the grades of the child or whether they learn anything at all. It has turned into nothing more than an extended day-care for many.

3.Children do not have incentives to learn. Being forced to be in attendance, since mandated through age 16, generally does not have the most positive of outcomes. There appears to be a sort of ‘race to the bottom’ since there is little incentive to excel, with little or no reward or praise for excellence or ‘good’ behavior in the classroom. Psychologically, we tend to resent what we are forced to do, giving children little incentive for further learning or even a positive attitude for aptitude.

And although I am a fan of John Stossel and all the work he is doing to point out the current education fallacies, school vouchers won’t cut it. A shift from monopolies to subsidies will not free the markets. The governments will still be coercing people out of their money and will still maintain a monopoly on the money for schools or mandate regulatory actions on all schools because of the subsidy. It’s not enough, but the show should be entertaining nonetheless. Watch ABC This Friday, Jan. 13, at 10 p.m.


Here's some more on the subject from some very good folks: here and here.

 

More on Game Theory

As long as we're talking about Game Theory, I'd like to be the first to say that it's a fun and interesting way of looking at the world. The best part about it is that in most games, individual actors can have different payoffs and different preferences for different actions. In other words, values are always subjective. It's not necessary that we assume that everyone wants exactly the same number of widgets or nuclear weapons or whatever the payoff might be.

Also, I'd like to quickly sum up the three most common games that theorists use to describe the world:

First and foremost, is the Prisoner's Dilemma, a non-zero-sum game wherein cooperation is best for both players, but difficult to attain.

Secondly, a coordination game of Stag Hunt, which describes the conflict between safety and social cooperation.

The Chicken Game is suitably named after the game made famous in Rebel Without A Cause in which drivers steer their vehicles at eachother (or a cliff) until one or the other or both "chicken out" and swerve.

 

Subject of the Day

Game Theory.

This mathematical field was developed by von Neumann and Morgenstern in their "Theory of Games and Economic Behavior".

Morgenstern focused his attention on its application to business and economic behavior, while von Neumann took it into a greater variety of areas, including military studies and computer science, and is substantially more well known.

Game theory was made famous with John Nash and the depiction of him in A Beautiful Mind.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

 

Help me out

When I was reading "economic truth's" explanation of the Edgeworth box, I couldn't help but notice they failed to match the two parties with their proper indifference curves. I may be wrong, but I read it to mean that party 1's indifference curves are the lower two curves (concave to party 1's origin) and party 2's indifference curves are the upper two curves (concave to party 2's origin). Here's the problem: indifference curves are convex to the origin!

If you don't believe me, I think Wikipedia got it right: "The curves are convex, which is a consequence of the assumption that as consumers have less and less of one good, they require more of the other good to compensate (corresponding to the law of diminishing marginal utility)."

 

Person of the Day

Francis Ysidro Edgeworth.

Edgeworth is famous for furthering utility theory, mathematics, and statistical probability. He is most well known for the Edgeworth box and the Edgeworth Series.

He was also influential in developing indifference curves.

 

Our Mutualist Friends

Upon reading some of our Mutualist counterpart's blog, I have come to recognize that they still follow much of the orignal Marxist notions. They still follow the Labour Theory of Value, the "iron law of wages" and various other 19th century, now-debunked opinions.

Here is Menger's take on the Theory of Value and some info on Marginalism and Marginal Revolution.

Oh yeah... For a good laugh, read this.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

 

On Smoking and Plunder...

I think Bastiat would say that this most recent usurpation of smokers' rights falls under the general heading of Plunder. Specifically, I think he'd call it Partial Plunder, wherein those in the majority take what they can from a minority.

It's depressing to think that Democrary - the supposed panacea for all society's problems - can't possibly solve this one. As long as there are more non-smokers who believe they are entitled to smoke-free air whereever they go than property-owning smokers who can withstand them, this problem will persist.

 

So Sue me...

I suppose if a merchant/company is knowingly misrepresenting their product, then the purchaser of the good/service is entitled to compensation if there is sufficient injury or personal damage because of this misrepresentation. This is a short-run argument.

Since, however cigarettes and tobacco have been around for hundreds of years and health hazards have been widely publicized for decades, (societies, states and churches have condemned the use of tobacco since the seventeenth century) the companies of these goods or services should no longer be at fault in the present for past potential deception, when there exists a common knowledge of the risks associated with the behavior.

So, in the long-run (now-ish) there should be no one still receiving legal compensation for assuming the risk of risky behavior.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

 

Sue everything that might hurt you

All this talk about smokers suing cigarette manufacturers for health problems seems as absurd to me as Evel Knievel suing his motorcycle manufacturer for broken bones. After all, he never would have broken 35 bones if it weren't for those bikes. That's it! It was the company's fault for selling him those bikes! He didn't know what he was getting into! He was addicted to adrenaline and he wasn't thinking clearly!

Imagine the consequences of carrying this out to its logical conclusion. Then again, maybe I can finally cash in on all of my personal vices--and I'm sure I'll feel better about them if I can get a Judge or Jury to tell me they aren't my fault. Watch out, all you sinister makers of beer, pizza, and video games! You will pay for my poor judgment!

 

The former economist - Krugman

We all have come to know and love the former economist, Paul Krugman, and his consistent disregard for facts.

In response to a recent article, Stuart E. Browning summarizes the current fiction of Krugman in “The Health Care Lies of Paul Krugman”.

Thanks Newmark's Door.

 

The Smoking Ban

Here's some more from the front line of the "War On Smoking".

An article by Tom Baldwin. What an appropriate day to make the state smoke free. April 15 fits with the continued themes of coercion and loss of freedom.

Steven Yates's column entitled Why the War on Smoking Will Fail might give us some hope, though I am not sure how much hope any of us should have in legislators.

 

The Honorable Idiot: Gov. Richard Codey

The Honorable Idiot... Acting Governor Richard Codey of New Jersey. Now it appears that New Jersey will be following the lead of New York in banning smoking indoors. Here's the article.

The problem is that "restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, private clubs, bingo halls and enclosed shopping malls" are not public places. They are private property. The kind the government has no right to interfere with.

Want to know more on property rights? Check Lysander Spooner's Natural Law.

Also, find out why smoking is not a crime.

I guess I shouldn't call him the honorable idiot, he's not the only one.

 

Re: The State (More)

More on the State... from A man I really admire: Anthony De Jasay.

His book is online, appropriately titled The State.

Another excellent essay of his is 35 hours and his newest essay available at Econlib.

 

Re: The State

There was a nice little article on the front page of FEE's website yesterday. It was titled I, Government. It is a fun read and entirely serious.

 

The Classics

I thought it would be appropriate also, to list some of the political, economic, and philosophical "classics". Obviously this list is a work in progress and will be updated continuously.

"The Fable of the Bees" by Bernard Mandeville.

Aeropagitica by John Milton.

I, Pencil by Leonard Read.

Already mentioned are the works of Lysander Spooner and Frederic Bastiat.

More to come

 

The State

Probably Bastiat's most famous quote is

"The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else."

That quote came from his essay titled simply "The State." Any students interested in Political Economy would only punish themselves to not read the whole essay, maybe even twice.

Monday, January 09, 2006

 

ah, sweet Bastiat

Since this blog is named after and devoted to Bastiat, I thought it would be appropriate to start with Bastiat basics. First, he was a loud supporter of free trade, both within and between nations. Second, he lived in a tough time, considering his beliefs. The people of 1840's France, where he did the bulk of his writing, did not receive his ideas well. He was not appropriately recognized as a genius until he was long gone. Which brings me to my next point. He died of TB early in life, and I feel an obligation to spread his ideas because he wasn't given sufficient time to do so himself. So thanks, Chris, for starting this blog. Long live Bastiat!

 

Organs-R-Us

Below is just a veritable bevy of articles on Organ Markets.

Here is one by GMU's Walter Williams titled "Organs for Sale". Simple questions and contemporary concerns to uncover the fallacies of current policy.

Here is an article by the Independent Institute's David Kaserman titled
The AMA’s Opposition to Organ Markets. Just like the AMA's control on the supply of doctors, they want to control the supply of donors and organs. Do you think that they really care, if you live or die?

This is a very useful treatment of the ethical concerns for Organ Markets. Economists are sometimes amoral on these sort of issues, but here is an appropriate article on what is likely a concern for a great many people. It is titled Eight Ethical Objections to an Organ Market… And Why They’re Wrong by Stephanie Murphy.

Here is a quick economics lesson (press release style) on organ markets: A CALL FOR CADAVERIC ORGAN MARKETS. Most people seems to believe that there currently isn't one. But there is! And since there is one, it should be more efficient and people should be compensated accordingly for use of their own private property.

Here is a nice article from last month's Regulation titled Radical Operation: Trying to Save Lives with Organ Markets.

A very useful idea. Auction anyone?...E-BAY FOR ORGANS.

Here's a take by the John Locke Foundation's own Travis Fisher.

Lastly, here are two articles by the good folks at the Ayn Rand Institute:
The Legality and Morality of Selling Organs for Transplant and Human Organs for Sale?.

 

Bastiat

The name of this blog comes from the essay entitled "That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen" by Frederic Bastiat. You can find his writings and additional info here, here, and here.

Enjoy...

Friday, January 06, 2006

 

Some Spooner

Here is some good stuff. For any Lysander Spooner fans out there, check out this website.

Make sure to check out "Constitution of No Authority" and "Vices are Not Crimes".

 

Welcome to the Broken Window

Welcome to the Broken Window. More to come....

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